Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Trouble With Heucheras

Heucheras have to be one of my favourite perennials. Except when they do this: Heave

My hand can wrap itself around the base of the Heuchera's crown. The crown has heaved that much!

If left like this, the Heuchera begins to fade and become weakened. I planted several cultivars: Caramel, Obsidian, Palace Purple....they all need help this year.

I find, heaving happens to heucheras when the soil they are planted in is not friable and loose. Compacted or sandy soil (like mine) or sometimes heaps of snow on top, cause this heaving and the end result showing in the above photo. It doesn't help that I have dappled shade all day. But there are ways to overcome this.

Don't be like me last year and wait too long - once the heat came in June, I lost two of my favourite cultivars. Today, it's time to pull them up.

Gently lift them and examine the crown. Like geraniums, they have a real fleshy, stalky crown which will have small mini plantlets which you can divide, as I did.

It's important to take off all the dead leaves. Heucheras are semi evergreen and like hellebores, they need to have many of their overwintering leaves removed to prevent decay of the stem/root mass. Pull them gently off the stem like you would lettuce leaves. Start at the bottom and work your way up. You'll see concentrated new growth and leaves emerging from the centre.

(The one great aspect when digging them up: you get to have more plants!)

Be thorough. With your fingers, remove any callused or flakey bits around the stem - by doing this, you'll reveal tender, fleshy white nodes that will produce new baby plantlets and roots.

Dig a bigger hole, more deeper and add organic matter, like compost or composted manure.  Water thoroughly to remove air pockets and wait a few weeks to see them bounce back.

In a week or two, this Heuchera will bounce back, doubling in size. Richer colour and a more robust habit will allow you to enjoy the plant for many years to come.

In my experience, other plants like Tiarellas and Heucherellas don't heave. But, I can't part with having Heucheras. They brighten and colour the garden like very few shade loving plants. They are the most disease and bug resistant of perennials. They may be a bit more work to take care of, yet totally worth it.


  1. I am needing to pot up my extra heucheras for a plant sale, so this is very helpful. Nice job with those photos.

  2. How deep do you place the crown in the soil?

  3. The soil should be level where first leaf node emerges from the stem. I'd say a half an inch above ground should be good. Wrap your fingers around the crown and pinch it down firmly once planted.


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